It has long been a cliché that Los Angeles does not respect the culture of the book. It is true that this town famously eviscerated Faulkner and Fitzgerald, that Hollywood suits to this day treat screenwriters the way Henry VIII treated his wives. Yet, it is also true that Los Angeles has spawned unique brands of literature, such as, the hard-boiled detective story, and that a major publisher like Judith Regan is moving from New York to Century City.
This weekend more than 100,000 people are expected to flock to the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books at UCLA -- and to a new, Jewish-themed People of the Book Festival across the street.
The all-day "People" event April 30 will feature authors such as Amy Wilentz, the former Jerusalem correspondent for the New Yorker (see story on this page); renowned Jewish chef Faye Levy ("Feast From the Mideast : 250 Sun-Drenched Dishes From the Lands of the Bible"); Ruth Andrew Ellenson; Jewish Journal Religion Editor Amy Klein; Lori Gottleib, and Aimee Bender ("The Modern Jewish Girl's Guide to Guilt") in a 4 p.m. panel moderated by Tobin Belzer.
It was the proximity to the Times' festival that prompted UCLA Hillel Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller, in part, to approach newspaper officials about a linked event several years ago. Audiences had been growing for Jewish Book Month events each November, starring Jewish literati such as Michael Chabon and Nicole Kraus.
But the Times passed, reportedly due to liability issues arising from attendees crossing Hilgard Avenue. Then Abigail Yasgur of the Jewish Community Library suggested an event to run separately but simultaneously with the existing fair, and the USC Kasden Institute and the UCLA Center for Jewish Studies signed on.
While groups such as the Jewish Federation of the San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys will continue to hold book festivals in November, the People of the Book organizers have "created some kind of geographic and chronological confluence [that helps]... "keep the focus on books," says David L. Ulin, book editor of the L.A. Times. "The great thing about books is that they bleed across all kinds of boundaries."
For more information, visit www.peopleofthebookfestival.org